Fenway Health is saying goodbye to an icon and community treasure this month when Rhonda Linde, PhD, retires after a ground-breaking career in our Behavioral Health department. For more than 35 years, Rhonda served our community like no other and we are so much better because of her passion for helping others. Over the years, she’s cared for thousands of patients and helped scores of new therapists get their own careers started through the internship program she created. Some of the most important work we can thank Rhonda for happened during the darkest days of the AIDS crisis, when Fenway was one of the few places our community could turn to for any level of compassionate care. The vision and leadership Rhonda demonstrated during this time will never be forgotten by those she touched.
“I remember relying greatly on Rhonda’s advice as soon as I got to know her, since she was impeccably trained, and always empathetic, and practical,” said Kenneth Mayer, MD, Co-Chair and Medical Research Director at The Fenway Institute. “Rhonda was among the first people in Boston to recognize that the psychological toll of the emerging HIV/AIDS epidemic was going to be staggering and that we needed to organize to address all of its manifestations: providing support for those who were rapidly becoming gravely ill, for those who were their care-takers, their currently healthy lovers, their chosen and biological families, and the increasing numbers of worried persons, with and without a solid foundation to their concerns.”
During the 1980s, Rhonda was one of the key people involved in the creation of the AIDS Action Committee, Dr. Mayer recalled. “She recognized the important role that the extended community could play, since there were too few of us as professionals to address the mounting needs of patients, caregivers and concerned people in the early 1980’s. She generously devoted her time to counsel and train lovers, family members, and buddies to provide the needed support that our patients required and deserved,” he said. “Her compassion and wisdom were evident from the get-go and had a profound, salutary effect in engaging many needed mental health professionals who might not have gotten as involved in AIDS care. Rhonda continued to push the envelope, challenging Fenway to engage more mental health professionals as the demands of the burgeoning epidemic grew, requiring more people to support the mental health needs of our community. Her trainings amplified the impact of the “Fenway model” of integrating HIV medical care with attention to the social, behavioral and existential needs of all our clients in those early, dark days.
“We all owe a great debt of gratitude to Rhonda Linde, who quickly mobilized to ensure that Fenway was able to address the huge emotional toll of the AIDS epidemic in Boston. She has been tireless, creative, and adhered to the best practices in the cannons of the helping and healing professions,” Dr. Mayer said. “Without her, I am not sure we would have had as successful a response to the local epidemic. Her role was unique and essential, and deserves continued high praise, recognition and emulation. I will never forget her wonderful and needed efforts in the darkest of times.”
Thank you for everything, Rhonda and best wishes in the next chapter of your journey.
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